By Michael Chamberlian-Torres, Owner/Chief Consultant at Hospitality by Torres
When I travel, I try my best to blend in with the locals. Unless we are talking about something spectacular like the Great Wall of China or The Blue Mosque, you generally won't find me anywhere near the tourist traps where wide-eyed travelers fork over loads of cash for "authentic" cultural experiences. I'm more of a back-alley, hole in the wall, no english spoken here, type of traveler. But that's what I do for fun, and I have a whole different blog dedicated to just that type of adventure.
That being said, on a recent business trip to St. Augustine, FL I did partake in a very "touristy" activity, a sail upon the Schooner Freedom. Experiences and memories are at the heart of the hospitality business. Becoming known as a top restaurant or hotel often isn't just about the food you serve or the condition of your property. To thrive in this industry you have to generate positive emotions and lasting impressions.
My reason for being in the area was to consult with a local B&B. So what does that have to do with a sailing excursion? Everything. Unlike large resorts and hotels that have swimming pools, fitness centers, restaurants, spas, and more; small inns rely heavily on local tour operators and dinining establishments to keep their guests happy and entertained. Send a guest to the wrong restaurant and their stay at your property may be ruined! Conversely, recommend a day filled with attractions that delight them, and you'll have a repeat booking in no time. In either case, the innkeeper has no direct control over the other businesses, but the recommendations they offer will have a huge impact on the overall impression the guest has of their property.
This is why it is so important for owners and managers of lodging establishments to cultivate strong business relationships within the tourism community. Tour operators and restauranteurs who know and like you, will treat your guests better and help you to create the unforgettable experiences that reflect well on your business.
So back to the Schooner Freedom; the owner's of the B&B I worked with recommend it to their guests all the time and invited me along for a Sunday evening cruise. As a sea lover, I am always up for a little time aboard ship, the views of St. Augstine's Old Town and Spanish Fort are spectacular from the water; but it was the crew of this vessel that really made the experience. They got passangers involved in raising the sails, engaged guests in conversation, and provided some showmenship climbing the rig and sliding down ropes in true bucaneer style. What I am getting at is that there are several boat tours available in St. Augustine, but by doing their research and sending guests to the Schooner Freedom, the B&B owners add value to their own business. Recommending a tour operator that offers a unique and memorable experience, instead of just going through the motions, can make all the difference in a guest's likelihood to return.